LOS ANGELES — Last week in the NFL was one everyone would like to forget. Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of teams who improved to 2-0 and thus greatly increased your chance of eventually advancing to the playoffs. If you’re winless as we enter Week 3, then what a pity because in the last five seasons just one team – the 2013 Panthers – has advanced to the tournament after beginning the year as such (you’ll probably read that again soon). If the season ended today, who would be your MVP? Good question, glad I asked it. Peyton Manning? C.J. Spiller? Andy Dalton? J.J. Watt? What about Coach of the Year? Bill O’Brien? Bruce Arians? Ah yes, that’s why they play a full 16 games in the National. Football. League.
Let’s find out who’s the man, shall we?
32.) New York Giants (2014 record: 0-2; last week: 31) — It’s a little too early to determine the top college prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft, but I hope he’ll enjoy living in Manhattan because it’s going to be that kinda year for the G-Men.
31.) Oakland Raiders (0-2; 29) — I’ll let future hall of famer Charles Woodson handle this one: “We’re not very good … We suck. I am embarrassed.” OK, then.
30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2; 30) — According to ESPN’s made up QBR that puts a quantitive score on how well an NFL quarterback performs, Chad Henne got a 4.1 this week. Four-point-one. If you’re scoring at home. We are officially on Blake Bortles watch.
29.) St. Louis Rams (1-1; 32) — Get blasted at home to the Vikings and win on the road against the Bucs; I’m certainly not going to try and figure out this team just two weeks in, but anything’s possible at this point. I’m ready for anything.
28.) Washington Redskins (1-1; 26) — Look, I love Robert as much as anyone. We are forever linked in basic cable television lore but his time as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins is over. This is Kirk Cousins’ team.
27.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1; 27) — It’s amazing what happens when the Cowboys stick to running the football and don’t let Tony Romo freelance behind the line of scrimmage to basically get himself beat to a pulp. What team shows up this week, however, is up in the air.
26.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-2; 24) — If Jamaal Charles is out for a considerable amount of time this team is in trouble, especially after its best defensive player tore his achilles.
25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2; 23) — First you lose to Derek Anderson, then you lose to Austin Davis. Oh, and both games were at home. And you’re supposed to be a playoff team. Something ain’t right down in Tampa Bay.
24.) Cleveland Browns (1-1; 28) — Did anyone give the Browns any kind of chance to beat the Saints last weekend? Nope. Turns out these aren’t your brother’s Browns. Tough. Hard-nosed. Brian Hoyer has moxie. Johnny sure looked good those two snaps, right?
23.) Tennessee Titans (1-1; 16) — How do you go from lambasting a playoff team on the road to getting thrashed at home by an inept pretender? Jake Locker looked great and then horrid. Can’t figure out this Titans squad so far.
22.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1; 14) — Umm, yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there as much as you do but one thing is for certain after the Vikings drubbing at the hand of New England last week: Teddy Bridgewater’s time is coming. Soon.
21.) New York Jets (1-1; 19) — Only the Jets could lose because their offensive coordinator called a time out just a split second before their second-year quarterback who may or may not be any good throws the greatest pass of his short NFL career to a young receiver who makes a leaping grab in the end zone to tie the game but it didn’t count and they go on to lose because of it.
20.) Houston Texans (2-0; 20) — Houston has beat the Redskins and Raiders, so not exactly world beaters, but starting the year 2-0 is impressive and J.J. Watt is on a mission to take over the world. I’m afraid just typing his name.
19.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1; 22) — Disaster week in Baltimore last week and considering what was swirling around that football team, what they were able to do on a short week against a good Steelers team; impressive to say the least.
18.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1; 13) — So the Falcons, after showing us their 2012 selves in Week 1, went and showed us their 2013 edition in Week 2. I’m not riding this roller coaster this season. Pick one and be done with it!
17.) Miami Dolphins (1-1; 9) — I was ready to be a believer in the Dolphins, I really was. But they got dominated by the Bills, even more so after Knowshon Moreno went out with an elbow injury.
16.) Detroit Lions (1-1; 12) — Everyone was saying, myself included, that the Lions needed to show us they could beat a tough team on the road before we would start taking them seriously; and we wait another week.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; 4) — It was pretty shocking this team let Cleveland get back in the game in Week 1 and then got completely outclassed last Thursday night against a Ravens team fighting controversy.
14.) Buffalo Bills (2-0; 25) — Buffalo has been the most surprisingly impressive team this far, defeating good teams on the road and at home, showing a knack for the big play and coming up with the defense when needed. Gotta see it consistently before I believe though.
13.) Chicago Bears (1-1; 21) — So the Bears, in eight quarters of football this season, have laid an absolute egg in six of them, and absolutely dominant in two. Lucky for them it’s the last two that’s been the most dominant.
12.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0; 18) — Narrowly edging the Chargers at home is sort of impressive, escaping against the Giants is not whatsoever. Not sure what to make of this team so far, but it’s nice that Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 500 times. Quiet his dad for a week.
11.) Indianapolis Colts (0-2; 6) — Why Chuck Pagano doesn’t just turn Andrew Luck loose is beyond me and probably most every Colts fan. But hey, at least Trent Richardson looked like a real life human functioning running back this week, right?
10.) New Orleans Saints (0-2; 7) — The Saints are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and I know many out there picked them to be as such, but this stat is a very real one: only one team in the last 5 seasons has started the year 0-2 and made the playoffs.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0; 11) — The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to be trailing by 14-or-more points in their first two games and come back to win them both. Soooo maybe they should work on their starts, ya think?
8.) Green Bay Packers (1-1; 8) — How is it possible that Jordy Nelson doesn’t have the respect of defensive coordinators across the league just yet? All he goes out and does is dominate week-in and week-out. Great fortitude to bounce back after looking like a mess in falling behind 18 against the Jets.
7.) New England Patriots (1-1; 10) — Tom Brady is still pissed the offense isn’t clicking like it should but be honest, I wasn’t the only one panicking after the Vikings went up 7-0 Sunday very easily. What followed was the defensive performance we were all expecting from the Patriots.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1; 3) — Talk about a tale of two halves in the opening game at Levi’s Stadium. Colin Kaepernick shows flashes of being one of the best players in the league, then he slips back down to looking like someone still struggling to pick it all up.
5.) San Diego Chargers (1-1; 15) — Boy, the Super Chargers sure showed the rest of the league something last Sunday, huh? Did they expose the Seahawks? I won’t go that far, but San Diego will be there come season’s end.
4.) Carolina Panthers (2-0; 17) — The Panthers win on the road in Week 1 without their starting quarterback and then do it again in Week 2 against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL without their best defensive player.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1; 1) — Seattle isn’t going undefeated and the big story is how all-world mouth team defensive back Richard Sherman got “exposed.” Well, he’s still wearing the ring so let’s all just calm down about that for a week or two.
2.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0; 5) — The Bengals have been the most consistently balanced and impressive team in the league through the first two weeks. Let’s see it continue or maybe even in January.
1.) Denver Broncos (2-0; 2) — Peyton Manning threw three more TD passes, blah, blah, blah. Wake me when something legitimate happens in Denver.
LOS ANGELES — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently the subject of some poor television producing when the topic of his spot in the NFL’s Top 5 QB Elite was discussed. Now, I didn’t pay this one ounce of attention because, well, duh, of course he’s still in there. But for a June conversation, it moved the dial and media outlets deprived of content this time of year ran with it and I’m sure their ratings reflected such discussion involving NFL royalty. Tim Tebow he is not, however.
Fantasy geeks who care only about on-field statistics have their theories as to what qualifies one as NFL Elite and where Brady currently ranks in today’s game. I have my own list but that’s not the point of his article. But to satisfy the stat-heads, let’s just look at basic quarterback measurables over the last three seasons to get an idea: Brady has 1,182 completions, thrown for 14,405 yards and 98 TDs, and just 31 INTs.
In my fantasy league with the scoring as follows – .25pts/comp, 40yds/pt, 6pts/TD and -2pts/INT – that calculates out to 1,181.63 points. There are 14 other QBs who have started a majority of their teams games in the last three seasons – I’ll throw Peyton Manning in there with his 2010 stats as well – so let’s see how they performed purely on a statistical basis:
- Drew Brees: 1,436 comp, 15,815 yards, 128 TD, 45 INT –> 1,432.38 pts
- Peyton Manning: 1,300 comp, 14,836 yards, 125 TD, 38 INT –> 1,369.9 pts
- Tom Brady: 1,182 comp, 14,405 yards, 98 TDs, 31 INT –> 1,181.63 pts
- Matthew Stafford: 1,227 comp, 14,655 yards, 90 TD, 52 INT –> 1,109.13 pts
- Aaron Rodgers: 907 comp, 11,444 yards, 101 TD, 20 INT –> 1,086.85 pts
- Matt Ryan: 1,208 comp, 13,411 yards, 87 TD, 43 INT –> 1,073.28 pts
- Tony Romo: 1,123 comp, 12,915 yards, 90 TD, 39 INT –> 1,065.63 pts
- Philip Rivers: 1,082 comp, 12,708 yards, 85 TD, 46 INT –> 1,006.2 pts
- Andy Dalton: 992 comp, 11,360 yards, 80 TD, 49 INT –> 914 pts
- Ben Roethlisberger: 983 comp, 11,601 yards, 75 TD, 36 INT –> 913.78 pts
- Eli Manning: 997 comp, 12,699 yards, 73 TD, 58 INT –> 888.73 pts
- Joe Flacco: 991 comp, 11,339 yards, 61 TD, 44 INT –> 809.23 pts
- Cam Newton: 882 comp, 11,299 yards, 64 TD, 42 INT –> 802.98 pts (does not include rushing stats/points)
- Alex Smith: 734 comp, 8,194 yards, 53 TD, 17 INT –> 672.35 pts
- Jay Cutler: 661 comp, 7,973 yards, 51 TD, 33 INT –> 604.58 pts
This last Monday, Brady, in so many words, said he didn’t care about those stats fantasy nerds get hard over, that wins and the final score are the only stats that matter to him. This fits with Brady’s Patriotsification over the years. Team first. Winning is all that matters. Get better each game. It is what it is. Of course, his quotes got me thinking about stats vs. wins so I looked them all up and wouldn’t you know the quarterback with the most wins in the last three seasons: Tom Brady.
Tom Terrific is 37-11 in the regular season since 2011, one ahead of Manning for the most in the league. Look at how the rest of the above fantasy studs compare when it comes down to straight wins and losses:
- Tom Brady 37-11
- Peyton Manning 36-12+
- Aaron Rodgers 31-9*
- Drew Brees 31-17
- Alex Smith 30-9-1++
- Andy Dalton 30-18
- Joe Flacco 30-18
- Matt Ryan 27-21
- Ben Roethlisberger 26-18^
- Cam Newton 25-23
- Eli Manning 25-23
- Tony Romo 24-23 **
- Philip Rivers 24-24
- Jay Cutler 22-14^^
- Matthew Stafford 21-27
* missed 7 games in 2013
+ includes 2010 season as Manning missed all of 2011
^ missed 4 games between 2010 & 2011
** missed 1 game in 2013
++ missed 8 games in 2012 & 2013
^^ missed 12 games in 2011, 2012 & 2013
Interesting how they line up, don’t you think? So, yeah, when Brady says he only cares about wins and the final score, he really knows what he’s talking about.
By SHAWN BRADLEY
Special to The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — Moving this year’s NFL Draft to May 8th has proved to be a disaster for pundits and fans alike. The torturous wait is almost over though and the First Round should provide fantastic theatre. This years class could prove to be the greatest of all-time and there’s a good chance we see multiple trades that will create seismic shifts to league landscape. However, predicting such deals is a useless exercise, so for Volume 2 of this Mock Draft we’ll pretend each team is pinned down to it’s original slot. To add a little more drama to this piece, we’re starting at the bottom, and like Drake said, soon well be here. I don’t know exactly where “here” is, but for these soon-to-be NFLers they hope it’s Radio City Music Hall this Thursday.
32.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — CODY LATIMER, WR, Indiana
Latimer has been rapidly climbing up draft boards after running a 4.38 forty during an stud pro day performance. Surrounded by sub-par talent at Indiana, Latimer battled through a foot injury to up impressive numbers (72 catches, 1,096 yards, 9 TDs) in 2013. His size (6-foot-2, 215 lbs), speed and strength (he led Combine WRs with 23 reps on the bench press) make him an ideal candidate to replace Golden Tate in Seattle.
31.) DENVER BRONCOS — RYAN SHAZIER, LB, Ohio St.
Following their offseason spending spree, the Broncos most glaring need is at inside linebacker. Shazier ran a blazing 4.38 forty a his pro day despite carrying 237 pounds, while also posting a 42 inch vertical leap, highest of any player at this years Combine. Athletically, Shazier is a rare breed and having him join DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the front seven should give Denver a defensive identity to go along with that record-setting offense.
30.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — KONY EALY, LB, Missouri
Ealy provides Aldon Smith insurance for a 49ers team that appears to be crumbling under the weight of past success. Physically, Ealy (6-foot-4, 273lbs) is almost identical to Smith (6’4, 265) and the very thought of having these two Missouri products rushing off opposite edges should give offensive coordinators fits. Ealy could also bulk up and move down to end whenever 35-year old Justin Smith decides to hang it up.
29.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — DEONE BUCANNON, S, Washington St.
In his on-going arms race with the Broncos, Bill Belichick keeps an eye on January by completing his renovation of New England’s secondary. A four-year starter who led the Pac-12 in tackles this past season, Bucannon flies to the football with abandon – he forced 7 fumbles to go with 15 interceptions during his career at Washington State. Deploying Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Bucannon gives Belichick a chance at stifling Peyton Manning Seahawks-style.
28.) CAROLINA PANTHERS — MOSES MORGAN, T, Virginia
Cam Newton’s lack of pass catchers has been well documented this offseason but his lack of pass protection should be an even bigger concern. Long-time left tackle Jordan Gross called it quits after 2013 and Moses (6-foot-6, 314lbs) would become his immediate – and long-term – successor. Ankle surgery currently has Newton in a walking boot so he’d surely enjoy having a long armed (35 3/8″) body guard like Morgan watching his back this season.
27.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — KELVIN BENJAMIN, WR, Florida St.
Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are gone, plus Marques Colston will be 31 when the season kicks off – time to find a new target for Drew Brees. Benjamin possesses imposing size at 6-foot-5, 240lbs and came out of nowhere to catch 15 TDs in 14 games for the Seminoles, averaging a score every 3.6 receptions. With Jimmy Graham, Colston and Benjamin all measuring in at 6’4 or taller, Brees should be unstoppable in the red zone.
26.) CLEVELAND BROWNS — JASON VERRETT, CB, TCU
Just like his old boss Rex Ryan, Mike Pettine needs high quality corners for his defense to thrive. Verrett’s speed (4.38) and swagger make his height (5-foot-9) irrelevant and the Browns currently have someone named Buster Skrine atop the depth chart across from All-Pro Joe Haden. When your division rivals have guys like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown the secondary becomes primary – Cleveland can wait 8 more picks to take a quarterback like Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage or Aaron Murray.
25.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS — KYLE FULLER, CB, Virginia Tech
After facing Peyton Manning three times last season the Chargers can’t pass on a corner like Fuller. Because of a hernia, Fuller played in just three games in 2013 – and he still picked off two passes and defended 10 others (4th in the ACC). Last year, San Diego GM Tom Telesco picked Keenan Allen, who was coming off a significant injury, so he can only hope Fuller is just as productive off the bat.
24.) CINCINNATI BENGALS — BRADLEY ROBY, CB, Ohio St.
Leon Hall is coming off a torn ACL while Dre Kirkpatrick can only be considered a bust at this point, so Cincinnati could certainly use an upgrade at corner. Even though he was burned repeatedly in 2013, Roby is so physically gifted that he has become one of the Draft’s late risers. Roby recently came close to driving over some kids after ingesting alcohol but since when have the Bengals been scared off by character concerns?
23.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — JOEL BITONIO, G, Nevada
For the second straight year, Andy Reid tries to bolster his offensive line by spending a first round pick on a left tackle. However Bitonio, who started 38 games on the blindside at Nevada, will move to right guard to fill a gaping hole for the Chiefs. Bitonio has a nasty streak, often finishing blocks beyond the whistle and he’s become a favorite of offensive line coaches around the league fallowing his Senior Bowl and Combine performances.
22.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — MARQISE LEE, WR, USC
While at still at Oregon, Chip Kelly sat front row while Lee piled up 20 catches for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games against the Ducks. Lee owns or shares an astounding 22 USC records despite the fact that he left school early following a disappointing junior season. It’ll be an interesting story line to watch as Lee endures season long comparisons to DeSean Jackson in Philly.
21.) GREEN BAY PACKERS — CJ MOSLEY, LB, Alabama
After winning the Butkus Award in the middle of Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense, Mosley is a perfect schematic fit for Dom Capers. The Packers allowed almost 27 points per game last season, so a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine like Mosley would be a welcome addition. With Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews attacking off the edge – plus Mosley patrolling the middle, Green Bay could be headed for a defensive resurgence in 2014.
20.) ARIZONA CARDINALS — CALVIN PRYOR, S, Louisville
Amazingly Teddy Bridgewater won’t be the first Louisville Cardinal to be selected in 2014. Pryor plays with violence and is constantly around the ball wreaking havoc. Adding a sledgehammer safety like Pryor to go along with Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu gives Arizona perhaps the NFL’s most talented secondary.
19.) MIAMI DOLPHINS — XAVIER SU’A FILO, T, UCLA
With all the top-tier tackles off the board, Miami fills its hole at right guard with the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Samoan from UCLA. Su’a Filo was a captain and even got voted the Bruin’s offensive MVP in 2013. After becoming the first true freshman in school history to start as a freshman, Su’a Filo spent two years on a Mormon mission and he should bring a level of maturity that the Dolphins offensive line has been missing recently.
18.) NEW YORK JETS — BRANDIN COOKS, WR, Oregon St.
Steadily improving its anemic offense, here the Jets add the speedy Cooks to free agent acquisitions Eric Decker, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson. Cooks put up eye-popping numbers (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs) on his way to winning the Biletnikoff award before scorching a 4.33 forty at the Combine. Former Eagles and current Jets OC Marty Mornhingweg, who attended Cooks’ pro day at Oregon State, might be envisioning a DeSean Jackson type role for the diminutive receiver.
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS — ODELL BECKHAM, JR., WR, LSU
Even with a $100-million quarterback, Baltimore averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt – same as the Jaguars. New Ravens receiver Steve Smith should serve as the perfect mentor for Beckham, Jr., who just like Smith, plays much bigger than his size (5-foot-11, 198lbs). Beckham, Jr. is also explosive in the return game, bringing back two punts for touchdowns during his final season in Baton Rouge.
16.) DALLAS COWBOYS — HA HA CLINTON-DIX, CB, Alabama
You get the feeling that Jerrah is jonesing to make a splash with a dramatic deal but nabbing the Draft’s best safety at 16 would be a nice consolation prize. Clinton-Dix is a rangy ball hawk who collected 7 interceptions in his brief Alabama career and he should be a huge upgrade for the worst defense in Cowboy’s history. Dallas currently boasts Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox atop their depth chart at safety; enough said.
15.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS — DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, Michigan St.
Pittsburgh’s secondary has been decaying for years and Dennard’s physicality makes him a good fit for Dick LeBeau’s defense. The Steelers intercepted just 10 passes last season, a number which should improve if the 2013 Thorpe Award winner ends up wearing Black and Gold. Having to go up against Josh Gordon and A.J. Green four games a year makes this an easy pick for Mike Tomlin.
14.) CHICAGO BEARS — AARON DONALD, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald would join Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen as the Bears rebuild a unit that gave up a league worst 161.4 rushing yards a game. Posting 11 sacks in 2013, Donald displays rare pass rushing ability for an interior lineman and that’s more good news for a Chicago defense that tied for last with just 31 QB takedowns. Being relatively undersized is the only thing keeping the ACC Defensive Player of the Year out of the top 10.
13.) ST. LOUIS RAMS — JUSTIN GILBERT, CB, Oklahoma
The top tier tackles are off the board in this scenario – but the Rams have another glaring weakness in the secondary. Gilbert had seven picks this past season, returning two for touchdowns and he’ll be the #1 corner right away for a defense that gave up an embarrassing 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2013. Gilbert also has value as a return man, using his 4.37 speed to return six kickoffs for touchdowns during his four years at Oklahoma State.
12.) NEW YORK GIANTS — ZACK MARTIN, G, Notre Dame
Big Blue struggled to block anyone last season allowing Eli Manning to be sacked a career-high 39 times in 2013. A two-time captain who started every game of his Notre Dame career, Martin’s tenacity more than makes up for the fact that he lacks ideal size (6-foot-4, 308lbs) and length. Versatile enough to play anywhere along the line, Martin will help a Giants team that has serious concerns at both left tackle and right guard.
11.) TENNESSEE TITANS — ANTHONY BARR, LB, UCLA
Ken Whisenhunt will wait until round 2 for a quarterback and take a chance on Barr, who appears to be a classic boom-or-bust pick. Barr played only 2 seasons at linebacker after converting from running back, but in those two years he accumulated 23.5 sacks. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Barr looks like an ideal fit for the attacking 3-4 defense new defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings to Tennessee.
— Check back soon for picks 10 through 1
LOS ANGELES — Thanks to the Rockettes and their Easter extravaganza hogging the stage at Radio City Music Hall, there’s still a week still to go before the large human fashion and accessory show known as the 2014 NFL Draft. I don’t know about you, but the build-up has been exhausting. How many more times do we need to hear Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t work hard, or Johnny Manziel is too small and reckless to play quarterback in the league, or Blake Bortles’s girlfriend is really hot? Exactly. I’m tired just typing those words out.
So, before any of these future millionaire hits the red carpet, bear hugs the Commissioner and says unintelligible things to Deion Sanders, we here at The Chris Brockman Website (meaning, me) decided it would be fun to look at back at the last 10 years of the 1st Round of the NFL Draft (2004-2013) and, with the benefit of incredible George Costanza spotting squirrels and dimes hindsight, pick the best pick selection of the last 10 years at each slot, whom we’ve titled “Rock Star,” along with two Honorable Mentions – because for some selections there are multiple options – and who ended up being the worst at each draft slot, whom we’ve suggestively titled, “Burger Flipper.” It was that or “Freight Driver” or “Middle School Gym Teacher.”
Hope this holds you over for the next few days before the real fun. Enjoy. Send me nasty messages on Twitter telling me I got it wrong, but remember, you all have the same number of career sacks as Vernon Gholston.
1.) ROCK STAR: ANDREW LUCK, QB, Indianapolis Colts (2012) — When you’re 22-10 in two years with a nearly 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio, throw in 600-plus rushing yards and nine touchdowns, yeah, you’re a rock star. And you don’t think the Giants could’ve won those two Super Bowls with Luck?
Honorable Mention: Eli Manning (2004), Cam Newton (2011)
BURGER FLIPPER: JAMARCUS RUSSELL, QB Oakland Raiders (2007) — Sure, he’s the most infamous of the recent top picks, but in everyone’s defense, Russell was bad. Seven wins, 52-percent completion percentage and only 18 touchdowns in three seasons, and he weighed more than his left tackle.
2.) ROCK STAR: CALVIN JOHNSON, WR, Detroit Lions (2007) — If you need to know why Megatron is the best 2nd pick of the last decade just put on the tape from 2013’s Cowboys game in which he had 14 catches for 329 yards and a touchdown and get back to me. Throw in his four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro Team selections and he’s headed for a Hall of Fame career.
Honorable Mention: Ndamukong Suh (2010), Von Miller (2011)
BURGER FLIPPER: JASON SMITH, T, St. Louis Rams (2009) — Linemen selected with the second overall pick should start more than 26 games in four seasons. Even Robert Gallery made it eight years and started 103 games in that span.
3.) ROCK STAR: LARRY FITZGERALD, WR, Arizona Cardinals (2004) — Eight Pro Bowls, six seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving despite playing with JV quarterbacks most of his career, and some of the best hair in the NFL lock this down for Fitz. His 64-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XLVIII should’ve won the game if not for a crazy Steelers comeback, too.
Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan (2008), Joe Thomas (2007)
BURGER FLIPPER: TYSON JACKSON, DE, Kansas City Chiefs (2009) — Pass rushers are key but with only nine career sacks in five seasons, despite 55 starts isn’t going to cut it. Plus, it’s a tad too early to announce Marcel Dareus, Dion Jordan or even Trent Richardson busts.
4.) ROCK STAR: PHILIP RIVERS, QB, San Diego Chargers (2004) — Mr. Bolo Tie has been one of the grittiest quarterbacks in the league during his tenure, earning five Pro-Bowl selections, 79 wins as a starter, and 221 touchdown passes despite his awkward throwing style and fashion choices. Tough, hard-nosed and always willing to do whatever it takes for his team, Rivers is the undeniable face of the Chargers.
Honorable Mention: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (2006), A.J. Green (2011)
BURGER FLIPPER: AARON CURRY, LB, Seattle Seahawks (2009) — Curry registered just 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons and zero in his third full year. And the hammer of his argument: he couldn’t even bust into the Raiders roster in 2012.
5.) ROCK STAR: PATRICK PETERSON, CB, Arizona Cardinals (2011) — In just three short seasons Peterson is already one of the most explosive and dynamic defensive players in all of football. Throw in his return-game versatility (he even played a little offense in 2013) and it’s easy to see why he’s in this position. Cam Newton went first overall in 2011, but Peterson was, in my mind, the best player in that Draft.
Honorable Mention: Eric Berry (2010), Sean Taylor (2004)
BURGER FLIPPER: GLENN DORSEY, DT, Kansas City Chiefs (2008) — Remember the hype on Dorsey coming into the 2008 Draft? I’m sure we all expected more than six sacks in 78 career starts.
6.) ROCK STAR: VERNON DAVIS, TE, San Francisco 49ers (2006) — Davis entered the league with the body of an Adonis, and the hype to match, and he’s done nothing but live up to the immense expectations. Feared, explosive, Davis is a two-time Pro Bowler and scored 13 touchdowns two separate times in his eight-year career.
Honorable Mention: Julio Jones (2011), Kellen Winslow II (2004)
BURGER FLIPPER: VERNON GHOLSTON, DE, New York Jets (2008) — Probably the most famous defensive busts of the last decade, Gholston infamously registered a whopping zero career sacks during his three seasons with the Jets.
7.) ROCK STAR: ADRIAN PETERSON, RB, Minnesota Vikings (2007) — A body chiseled from stone, the most violent runner since Jim Brown, and eight yards from breaking the all-time, single-season rushing record make AD a rock star. Not to mention him topping 1,250 yards rushing in six of his seven seasons, to go along with three All-Pro selections.
Honorable Mention: Joe Haden (2010), Aldon Smith (2011)
BURGER FLIPPER: TROY WILLIAMSON, WR, Minnesota Vikings (2005) — Williamson played just one full season in his five NFL years and registered only 37 catches in it. He finished with four career touchdowns.
8.) ROCK STAR: DEANGELO HALL, CB, Atlanta Falcons (2004) — Say what you will about Hall, and plenty have, including himself, he’s produced in all three of his NFL stops. His 43 career interceptions ranks him fifth among active players; his mouth puts him first.
Honorable Mention: Antrel Rolle (2005), Eugene Monroe (2009)
BURGER FLIPPER: DERRICK HARVEY, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (2008) — Harvey played just three full seasons, garnering eight sacks and never lived up to the lofty expectations which surrounded him on draft day.
9.) ROCK STAR: LUKE KUECHLY, LB, Carolina Panthers (2012) — Only two years into the league, Kuechly is a bonafide rock star at the linebacker position. He has 200 tackles in two seasons and was AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and then AP Defensive Player of the Year in just his second season.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Rogers (2005), B.J. Raji (2009)
BURGER FLIPPER: DEE MILLINER, CB, New York Jets (2013) — It may be early to declare Milliner a bust, but when you’re declared the next island inhabitant, anything less is falling coconuts.
10.) ROCK STAR: JEROD MAYO, LB, New England Patriots (2008) — A two-time Pro Bowler and once All-Pro selection, Mayo is the unquestioned leader of a consistently stout Patriots defense. His presence was clearly missed after going down in Week 6 and missing the rest of 2013.
Honorable Mention: Michael Crabtree (2009), Dunta Robinson (2004)
BURGER FLIPPER: BLAINE GABBERT, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (2011) — Can you believe that before the 2011 Draft there was talk of Gabbert going first overall? This was a real discussion. Gabbert is 5-22 as a starter with just a 53.3 completion percentage. Great hair, though.
11.) ROCK STAR: BEN ROETHLISBERGER, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (2004) — This is far and away the most loaded of the 1st Round draft slots with four potential Hall of Famers (J.J. Watt was also an 11th overall pick). But when you play in a quarterback-driven league, and you’re a quarterback who’s won two Super Bowls (and played in another), you’re the Rock Star of this group, Mr. Roethlisberger.
Honorable Mention: DeMarcus Ware (2005), Patrick Willis (2007)
BURGER FLIPPER: AARON MAYBIN, DE, Buffalo Bills (2009) — Heralded as the next Bruce Smith when drafted, Maybin finished with six career sacks in four seasons. They all came in 2011.
12.) ROCK STAR: HALOTI NGATA, DT, Baltimore Ravens (2006) — Ngata has been the best defensive tackle in the game for several years now. Incredibly consistent and durable, he’s missed just five games in eight seasons, not to mention he’s a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro pick.
Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch (2007), Ryan Clady (2008)
BURGER FLIPPER: CHRISTIAN PONDER, QB, Minnesota Vikings (2011) — Another quarterback bust from 2011, Ponder had moments of competence, but was never a first-round talent. He does have more touchdowns (38) than interceptions (34) which is more than some can say.
13.) ROCK STAR: BRIAN ORAKPO, LB, Washington Redskins (2009) — A three-time Pro Bowler, Orakpo missed nearly all of 2012 and bounced back with 10 sacks last season to push his career total to 39.5. A feared edge rusher, he’s among the game’s best when at full strength.
Honorable Mention: Jammal Brown (2005), Sheldon Richardson (2013)
BURGER FLIPPER: BRANDON GRAHAM, LB, Philadelphia Eagles (2010) — Philadelphia traded up to get the Michigan standout and it hasn’t exactly paid dividends. Graham has started just 12 games in four seasons and has registered 11.5 sacks.
14.) ROCK STAR: DARRELLE REVIS, CB, New York Jets (2007) — Fourteen is the draft slot for top defensive talent. Revis, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, is widely considered the best cornerback of his generation, and renders half the field unusable whenever he’s 100-percent. His 21 career interceptions seem low, but when no one throws your way out of fear, it’s hard to pick anything off.
Honorable Mention: Earl Thomas (2010), Robert Quinn (2011)
BURGER FLIPPER: CHRIS WILLIAMS, T, Chicago Bears (2008) — Inconsistent in his seven-year career, Williams has only been able to log three full seasons
15.) ROCK STAR: DERRICK JOHNSON, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (2006) — Johnson has been as steady as they come in all nine of his NFL seasons with the Chiefs. A three-time Pro Bowler and once an All-Pro, he has 376 tackles in the last three years for a strong Kansas City defense.
Honorable Mention: Branden Albert (2008), Brian Cushing (2009)
BURGER FLIPPER: TYE HILL, CB, St. Louis Rams (2006) — Hill played only one full season (his first) in five years in the league and registered five career interceptions.
16.) ROCKSTAR: DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE, CB, Arizona Cardinals (2008) — Once a Pro-Bowler after a six-interception season with the Cardinals, DRC has been steady throughout his six NFL years. His 19 career picks and more than 100 pass breakups make him still one of the league’s top corners.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Kerrigan (2011), Shawn Andrews (2004)
BURGER FLIPPER: JUSTIN HARRELL, DT, Green Bay Packers (2007) — Harrell could never stay on the field for the Packers. He played in just 14 games in three seasons and missed all of 2009 with an injury.
17.) ROCK STAR: JOSH FREEMAN, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009) — Before the wheels inexplicably fell off in 2013, Freeman was a big-time NFL quarterback with a 10-win and 4,000-yard season under his belt. He looked on his way to becoming one of the bright young stars in the league. We’ll see if he can regain that shine.
Honorable Mention: Chad Greenway (2006), Mike Iupati (2010)
BURGER FLIPPER: DAVID POLLACK, LB, Cincinnati Bengals (2005) — Pollack started just six of 16 games over two seasons and recorded four-and-a-half sacks before neck injury cut short his career.
18.) ROCK STAR: JOE FLACCO, QB, Baltimore Ravens (2008) — When you tell your owner, “nah, I’m good” on signing a crappy contract extension, then you go out and win the Super Bowl and sign a fresh $100 million deal, you’re a Rock Star. It also helps to be 28 games over .500 for your career as a starter and 9-4 in the playoffs.
Honorable Mention: Will Smith (2004), Leon Hall (2007)
BURGER FLIPPER: ERASMUS JAMES, DE, Minnesota Vikings (2005) — James played just one full season (his first) and had five sacks in four seasons, his career cut short by injury and an indefinite suspension by the league.
19.) ROCK STAR: ANTONIO CROMARTIE, CB, San Diego Chargers (2006) — Despite not knowing all his kids’ names, Cromartie has been a very good NFL corner, being named a Pro Bowler three times and once an All-Pro. His 28 career interceptions place him 10th on the active list.
Honorable Mention: Michael Griffin (2007), Jeremy Maclin (2009)
BURGER FLIPPER: JEFF OTAH, T, Carolina Panthers (2008) — After a successful rookie season in which he started 12 games, Otah caught the injury bug and started just 17 more in his short career. He missed all of 2010 due to injury.
20.) ROCK STAR: TAMBA HALI, DE, Kansas City Chiefs (2006) — A three-time Pro Bowler, Hali has missed only three games in eight seasons. Durable, reliable, and fearless, he’s sacked NFL quarterbacks 46.5 times in the last four years and is one of the game’s premier rushers.
Honorable Mention: Aqib Talib (2008), Kendall Wright (2012)
BURGER FLIPPER: KENECHI UDEZE, DE, Minnesota Vikings (2004) — I feel sorta terrible putting Udeze here since his career was cut short by leukemia, but he did have just 11 sacks in four seasons before his illness.
21.) ROCK STAR: VINCE WILFORK, DT, New England Patriots (2004) — The Heavy Chevy, Wilfork is what you call a run stopper, or a wide load, and has been among the best in the league at doing so during his 10-year career. A five-time Pro Bowler and once an All Pro, Wilfork’s value was seen last season when New England’s run defense was non-existent after his year-ending injury.
Honorable Mention: Alex Mack (2009), Reggie Nelson (2007)
BURGER FLIPPER: MATT JONES, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (2005) — I swear this isn’t sour grapes because I wasted a high fantasy pick on Jones once upon a time. High hopes heading into the league, Jones started just 15 games in his four years and couldn’t escape substance-abuse problems.
22.) ROCK STAR: DEMARYIUS THOMAS, WR, Denver Broncos (2010) — Thomas exploded as an elite pass-catcher when Peyton Manning arrived in Denver. Two 90-plus catch, 1,400-plus yard seasons later, No. 88 is a two-time Pro Bowler and a feared NFL receiver who’s only getting better.
Honorable Mention: Percy Harvin (2009), Manny Lawson (2006)
BURGER FLIPPER: BRADY QUINN, QB, Cleveland Browns (2007) — The best looking of the Guys Waiting Too Long In The Draft Green Room club, Quinn is just 4-and-16 in his career as a starter and has better biceps than deep ball.
23.) ROCK STAR: DWAYNE BOWE, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (2007) — Despite never playing with a top-level quarterback, Bowe has put up solid numbers in his seven seasons (67/914/6 averages) and at times has shown he’s capable of being a premiere receiver.
Honorable Mention: Davin Joseph (2006), Michael Oher (2009)
BURGER FLIPPER: DANNY WATKINS, G, Philadelphia Eagles (2011) — Watkins, the Canadian firefighter, started 12 games his rookie season but has only started six in the last two.
24.) ROCK STAR: AARON RODGERS, QB, Green Bay Packers (2005) — Rodgers made fun of me for being bald at a post-awards show party (#Humblebrag) and he owned the place like a rock star. On the football field his credentials speak for themselves: Super Bowl winner, league MVP, three-time Pro Bowler, All Pro, 58 wins in six years as a starter, commercial pitchman.
Honorable Mention: Steven Jackson (2004), Dez Bryant (2010)
BURGER FLIPPER: PERIA JERRY, DT, Atlanta Falcons (2009) — Jerry started just 15 games in fours seasons and registered two sacks, before bouncing back in 2013 with 14 starts and three-and-a-half sacks.
25.) ROCK STAR: JON BEASON, LB, Carolina Panthers (2007) — Beason was a monster his first four seasons in the league with Carolina. He started all 64 games, averaged over 100 tackles per season and made three Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team once. Injuries have cost him some of his productivity of late but he’s still a respectable player for the Giants.
Honorable Mention: Santonio Holmes (2006), Mike Jenkins (2008)
BURGER FLIPPER: AHMAD CARROLL, CB, Green Bay Packers (2004) — Carroll played well his first two years in the league, but ultimately has started just 28 games in five seasons with three career interceptions.
26.) ROCK STAR: CLAY MATTHEWS, LB, Green Bay Packers (2009) — Matthews has missed a handful of games in recent years but otherwise he’s been one of the most feared and consistent pass rushers in the NFL. A four-time Pro Bowler and an All Pro, Matthews has 50 career sacks in five seasons with Green Bay and has Hall of Fame pedigree.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Spencer (2007), Duane Brown (2008)
BURGER FLIPPER: JOHN MCCARGO, DT, Buffalo Bills (2006) — One career start in six seasons and only a couple of sacks, that’s rough for a first round pick, regardless of an injury-riddled career.
27.) ROCK STAR: RODDY WHITE, WR, Atlanta Falcons (2005) — White has been a stellar NFL receiver in his tenure. A five-time Pro Bowler and an All Pro, he had a streak of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and even led the league in receptions (115) in 2010.
Honorable Mention: Jason Babin (2004), DeAngelo Williams (2006)
BURGER FLIPPER: JIMMY SMITH, CB, Baltimore Ravens (2011) — It took Smith three seasons to become a starter in Baltimore but you want a first round corner to have more than four interceptions in three years.
28.) ROCK STAR: JOE STALEY, T, San Francisco 49ers (2007) — Staley has started all 98 games he’s played in his seven-year career, including every game the last three seasons. A three-time Pro Bowler, he’s the protector of Colin Kaepernick’s blind side.
Honorable Mention: Chris Gamble (2004), Marcedes Lewis (2006)
BURGER FLIPPER: LAWRENCE JACKSON, DE, Seattle Seahawks (2008) — An inconsistent starter in Seattle, Jackson was a solid sub for three seasons with the Lions before flaming out with 19 career sacks.
29.) ROCK STAR: NICK MANGOLD, C, New York Jets (2006) — No center in the last decade has been as durable and dependable as Mangold. He’s started all 126 games in his eight seasons and is a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro, and also is the owner of one of the league’s best beards.
Honorable Mention: Hakeem Nicks (2009), Ben Grubbs (2007)
BURGER FLIPPER: KENTWAN BALMER, DT, San Francisco 49ers (2008) — When you fail to record a sack and only start 11 games in five seasons, you should probably flip burgers.
30.) ROCK STAR: HEATH MILLER, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (2005) — A steady head at the tight end position, Miller, a two-time Pro Bowler, has been Ben Roethlisberger’s safety valve for years. He’s averaged more than 50 catches and 4 touchdowns a season over his nine years.
Honorable Mention: Muhammed Wilkerson (2011), Joseph Addai (2006)
BURGER FLIPPER: A.J. JENKINS, WR, San Francisco 49ers (2012) — Jenkins has played in 19 games and has eight career receptions. Me, too.
31.) ROCK STAR: GREG OLSEN, TE, Chicago Bears (2007) — Olsen is as sure-handed as you’ll find at the tight end position and has been/is a big target for Jay Cutler and Cam Newton. He’s averaged 55 catches and five touchdowns a year in his seven seasons.
Honorable Mention: Doug Martin (2012), Mike Patterson (2005)
BURGER FLIPPER: RASHAUN WOODS, WR, San Francisco 49ers (2004) — Played in 14 games his rookie season garnering only seven receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown and then was never heard from again. Seriously, he disappeared. If you know where he is, let me know.
32.) ROCK STAR: LOGAN MANKINS, G, New England Patriots (2005) — One of the premiere guards in the league, Mankins has been the Patriots most stable lineman. He’s started 130 games in nine seasons and is a six-time Pro Bowler and once an All Pro.
Honorable Mention: Mathias Kiwanuka (2006), Benjamin Watson (2004)
BURGER FLIPPER: DEREK SHERROD, T, Green Bay Packers (2011) — Drafted to protect Aaron Rodgers, Sherrod has played in only 12 games in two years (zero starts) and missed all of 2012 with an injury.
LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot to be learned after just three weeks of a football season, yet at the same time it’s still a little early to come to conclusions about teams and players’ fate. I’m sure we all don’t expect Peyton Manning to keep this up or the Giants to be this dreadful, though surely we’re all surprised by Trent Richardson’s trade and Josh Freeman’s benching. This we do know: there are several teams and players performing very poorly and a few teams who look really good. One or two will stay on this path and everyone else will go up and down as the season ebbs and flows towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
That’s just how the National. Football. League. works. And why we live and die with it each week and why we love it. I can’t wait to see what Week 4 will bring. Until then, let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (32) — Of course, the game I bench Maurice Jones-Drew, since he’s playing against the vaunted Seattle defense, at home no less, he scores a late, garbage touchdown. Thank goodness that didn’t cost me a win, since my team is terrible. Then I really would’ve thrown something at my television. Even more so than watching the crappy “Dexter” finale.
31.) Minnesota Vikings (0-3) (30) — We’re about two more brutal losses to teams of the Browns quality (no offense, Cleveland) from me starting a Free Adrian campaign.
30.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-3) (29) — How much would you pay to watch a webcam of the Bucs lockerroom? $2? $5? I think there’s some mess going on in there that I’m guessing is pretty damn interesting. Oh, and good luck, Mike Glennon, you’re gonna need it. And it’s time for a decent haircut, you’re a starting NFL quarterback now.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) (28) — When my dad knows the Steelers are in trouble, they really are. Seriously, how are they going to score points outside of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown breaking free on a long bomb?
28.) Washington Redskins (0-3) (24) — Preseason Week 3 went about as well as it could go, right? And did you know this is the first time EVER the Giants and Redskins have both started the year 0-3?
27.) New York Giants (0-3) (20) — The Giants are only this high because they’ve shown in the past it doesn’t matter how they start, they always seem to make it interesting down the stretch. How many more losses before the New York media starts calling for Tom Coughlin’s job?
26.) Cleveland Browns (1-2) (31) — So apparently the formula is: trade your best player, start your 3rd string QB and start winning games. Which team will be the next to follow this to Ws?
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-2) (25) — I really hope Terrelle Pryor isn’t hurt long term because he could become a special player. Though it might be time to have the conversation about the end of Darren McFadden, or at him being in need of a change of scenery to inject some life into his career.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) (27) — Thirty-eight points?! Where did that come from this week? And does it say more about the Panthers being capable of turning this season around (they’re on a bye this upcoming week) or how miserable this Giants season is going to be?
23.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (22) — Almost positive this Cardinals team is going to be the one this season where I have no idea what to write about it each week. Most weeks it’ll probably be a lot of me gushing about the Honey Badger.
22.) St. Louis Rams (1-2) (21) — The Rams are the Cardinals are very similar in the respect that both have quarterbacks who aren’t really good but can make plays every once in a while, have solid skill guys who are underused, and defenses who could be great but something or another holds them back. Doesn’t help they play in the hardest division in football.
21.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) (24) — Not sure why but I like this team. I like E.J. Manuel. I like Doug Marrone. And I like that Manuel likes throwing to Stevie Johnson (have I mentioned that before?) They went up against a tough Jets team (can’t believe I just typed those words) on the road and nearly won. They’re going to be OK here in a bit.
20.) New York Jets (2-1) (26) — A month ago, I really thought we’d be talking about the temperature of Rex Ryan’s hot seat, not a 2-1 team with a rookie quarterback playing decently and a defense near the top of the league. Just amazing. When you think you have the NFL figured out, you realize you have no idea.
19.) Detroit Lions (2-1) (18) — The Lions got their first-ever win in Washington last week and then in the most bizarre story we’ve had this season, Nate Burleson broke is arm in a car accident when he was distracted by falling pizza and then hit the median. Your move, Bengals.
18.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) (16) — We know the Eagles don’t play any defense, but we also know the Eagles are still figuring out their own offense. Since the first half of the win against the Redskins they’ve been punked by the Chargers and Chiefs. I still think they’re going to be OK though. Not enough to make the playoffs but enough to lay the foundation.
17.) San Diego Chargers (1-2) (15) — Tennessee has proven to be a tough, hard-fighting team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. It seems like the AFC West is going to be more than a Denver runaway and the Chargers aren’t going to be an easy beat this year.
16.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (17) — I don’t know how the Ravens are above .500 but somehow they are. Very good win last week. Emotional with the retiring of Ray Lewis’s number and they found a way. That’s going to be their M.O. this season: finding a way.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) (14) — See what happens when DeMarco Murray gets his carries? Now if only he could run against the Rams each week he’d be in Adrian Peterson territory. I happen to think Dallas will beat San Diego this week which will set the ‘Boys up nicely this season, but we’ll see. They’re bound for a stinker.
14.) Houston Texans (2-1) (7) — There’s something about the Texans I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it. Matt Schaub has done some Matt Schaub-like things this year. Arian Foster seems a bit disgruntled. Andre Johnson is dinged. But J.J. Watt is still awesome, but how long can he carry this team?
13.) Tennessee Titans (2-1) (13) — I haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the Titans play but I know Warren Sapp loves their defense. And when a first ballot Hall of Famer tells you something, you listen. Jake Locker is also proving to be very dangerous with his feet, which is something you can’t ever prepare for.
12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (19) — Andrew Luck bent his old coach over his leg and gave him a spanking last week. I don’t know how else to explain what happened against the 49ers. Trent Richardson’s first carry in the blue and white was a touchdown and Indy’s defense made Colin Kaepernick look like a novice back there. This could be a dangerous team.
11.) Atlanta Falcons (1-2) (10) — I’m not convinced the Falcons could be fine without Steven Jackson, but an unhealthy Roddy White is really limiting Matt Ryan’s vertical attack. His offensive line isn’t giving him much, either, but this still is an explosive offense and a playoff team.
10.) New England Patriots (3-0) (8) — It’s hard to be undefeated yet still drop each week in the rankings, but that’s just what the Patriots have done thus far. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Tom Brady hasn’t been good through three games, tantrums, dropped passes or not. He’s missed a lot of throws. But as long as the defense keeps bringing its A Game, the Pats will be OK.
9.) Green Bay Packers (1-2) (5) — Their running backs ran hard, aside from Jonathan Franklin’s late-game fumble, and the defense was opportunistic, Aaron Rodgers made a couple bad throws late in the game which cost Green Bay. This is still a dangerous team but the jury is out if it’s playoff bound.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) (9) — Andy Dalton is a good, not great, quarterback. He’s taken this team to the playoffs the last two seasons. He has playmakers all around him and a good defense. The Bengals should win the AFC North going away and contend in the conference. They should.
7.) Miami Dolphins (3-0) (12) — Raise your hand if you saw an undefeated start from the Dolphins coming? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Their running backs aren’t great and you can’t name one of their receivers other than Mike Wallace. But they play hard, Mr. Lauren Tannehill is slingin’ it and Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan are pinching the ends like mofos. They’re gonna be in the hunt all season.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4) — I still think the 49ers are good. I still think Colin Kaepernick is a superstar in the making, but as someone said to me last weekend, he’s feeling himself a little too much. He’s buying into his own hype a little too much. Take him favoriting all the “hate” tweets this week. Why? How does that motivate you?
5.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (11) — What an awesome scene in Philly last week. Really proud of the fans for showing Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb the respect they deserved. Too bad they couldn’t show the same gratitude when the two of them were leading the Eagles to NFC East titles and conference championship games. Chiefs are making the playoffs. Mark it down. That defense and zero turnovers, along with Jamaal Charles, they might even beat Denver.
4.) New Orleans Saints (3-0) (6) — Would you believe the Saints are 4th in Total Defense (295.7 ypg) and 6th in Offense (404.3 ypg)? Jimmy Graham is out of his mind right now and though it appears New Orleans has zero running game right now, at least it doesn’t have to worry about always being in a shootout with teams.
3.) Chicago Bears (3-0) (3) — Jay Cutler has the mojo working so far but before we all get carried away, myself included, let’s remember he’s gotten off to hot starts each of the last few seasons with the Bears with nothing to show for it. So while he looks great now, let’s not count the cubs before they’re done hibernating.
2.) Denver Broncos (3-0) (2) — Actual Yahoo headline on Tuesday: “Is it too early to give Peyton Manning the 2013 NFL MVP?” Manning’s stat line this season is ridiculous with 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and ZERO picks, not to mention his 73% completion rate, only 4.2% higher than his previous career high, but MVP? After 3 weeks? Slow the truck down, people.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0) (1) — Yes, the Seahawks gave up 17 points to the Jaguars. Yes, that is unacceptable. Yes, they’ve won 10 in a row at home. No, they will not lose at home this season. Yes, they are The Man until there’s a something in the “L” column.
LOS ANGELES — Passionate fan bases are part of what makes sports so amazing and unique and special, but it’s not just that we are fans of our favorite teams, rather it’s how we go about cheering them on to victory that makes it so awesome. Sunday, I watched the first half of the Seahawks/49ers game at a Seattle bar and in it where about 150-200 of the most insane people I’ve ever met. Every single one of them was decked out in some kind of Seahawks’ paraphernalia, including some pretty awesome old jerseys: Steve Largent, Jon Kitna, Joey Galloway and then today’s stars, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. One of the dudes, who was in the group I was in – my friend Stacye invited me out after I told her I had to watch a game with her given how rabid she is about Pete Carroll’s crew – even had a 12th Man jersey with “U Mad Bro” on the back. Oh, and it was sleeveless.
The other thing that struck me about everyone in the bar was their decibel level. Ironic that the Q set the record for outdoor noise the same night, because it felt about 136db around me every time Wilson was shown on TV. Seriously, these people went ape nuts every time anything happened. Seattle’s tight end DROPPED a touchdown and everyone lost their mind. It was pretty awesome to be there, too bad I missed most of the scoring plays, surely I would’ve lost my hearing by then. Even on Twitter everyone is crazy about them. I posted a couple nuggets and got immediate response. Love it.
The Hawks’ beatdown of San Francisco this week was definitely as impressive as their fans’ loyalty and devotion, but was it enough to make them The Man this week?
Let’s find out.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (32) — I wonder what Teddy Bridgewater thinks of the Jaguars helmets? Because if he doesn’t like them, you can be he’s going to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning and refuse to play for them when he’s drafted No. 1 overall less than 8 months from now. And I know no one cares about anyone else’s fantasy team, but you guys are my people, so I assume you care about mine. Well guess who got hurt Sunday for the Jags? You guessed it: EFFIN’ MAURICE JONES-DREW. I’m never taking him again. Ever. Ever.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (31) — I’ve seen “Old School” at least 150 times, no joke, and one of my favorite lines (among a hundred) is when Blue dies, and , his funeral Vince Vaughn says to Luke Wilson, “dammit, Blue was old, that’s what old people do, they die.” I feel like this is what we have to say about Brandon Weeden. Except he’s only 29. It’s just funny.
30.) Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (25) — Early Sunday a report was circulating that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman at odds and that Freeman might be traded on Tampa’s bye week. Immediately, I started seeing rumors of him going to the Vikings. I know Minnesota would do that faster than Adrian Peterson can sprint 78 yards for at touchdown, but who does Tampa want in return? Sure as hell not Christian Ponder.
29.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-2) (30) — So yeah, who’s going to be quarterbacking this team a month from now? I think Vince Young and Matt Leinart are available. Also, for the second week in a row, the game was handed to them to win and they flubbed it up and got the L. That really tells you all you really need to know.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) (28) — It could be a long year in the Steel City. Ten points last night against the Bengals, nine the week before against the Titans. No running game. Lost their center for the year, another starter on defense.
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-2) (27) — Something’s not right with Cam Newton. Clearly, I don’t know what it is, but watching Sunday’s game, he was downright Weedenonian in the first half. Overthrowing guys by 15 yards, balls into the turf, bad sacks. He got better in the second half, but this is beginning his third year, he should be further along than this. He should be beating the Bills.
26.) New York Jets (1-1) (26) — I’ll give the Jets this: they sure played hard on Thursday and really should’ve beaten the Patriots. Geno Smith showed his rookie colors in the New England downpour and let one too many ball sail on him, but that Jets defense stymied Tom Brady the entire game, save for the opening drive. It’ll be interesting how this plays out, but Rex coached ‘em up and if they can get any offense, they got a punchers chance.
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-1) (29) — For years it was so typical of the Raiders to have the most money on their team tied up in their kickers. Now it’s their fullback who’s cashing big checks. Well, Marcel Reese scored a touchdown Sunday to “justify” the pay day. And good for him. Fullbacks are people, too. And I know they played Jacksonville, but the Silver & Black’s defense didn’t look half bad.
24.) Washington Redskins (0-2) (15) — Umm… so this was Preseason Week 2, right?
23.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (24) — Impressive win on Sunday, even though it was against the Panthers, but EJ Manuel didn’t play great – he left a lot out there despite Carolina giving him multiple chances – but he led an impressive sub-2-minute drive (got some help on a phantom PI call on Luke Kuechly) and tossed a game-winning TD pass. Once he figures out what he’s doing in this league, he’s going to be a good one. And if there’s any silver lining for my fantasy team this season (yes, I’m already thinking about next year) it’s that he LOVES throwing to Stevie Johnson. It’s only just two games in, but it appears Doug Marrone made the right move going all-in on EJ.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1) (22) — Even with a hobbling Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona still managed to find a way to pull out a come-from-behind win against what looks like a pretty decent Lions team. Tryann Mathieu yet again made a big defensive play and Carson Palmer did just enough not to lose it. Not sure what to make of their running game but the Cardinals can compete with anyone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (21) — So THAT’s how Jeff Fisher wants to use Tavon Austin. Got it. That kid might have a future in this league. I like how the Rams showed some fortitude in coming back when it appeared they were gonna get blown out by the Falcons. They play in the toughest division in football and last year went 4-1-1 in that division. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that again.
20.) New York Giants (0-2) (13) — David Wilson gets benched for two fumbles and Eli Manning keeps his job despite 7 interceptions. Now, I understand how the quarterback position works. There’s a lot that goes into some of those picks; deflections, bad routes, and so on. But this is not a good start for the Blue Men Group. Again. Tom Coughlin on the hot seat in 3…2…1…
19.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (16) — Andrew Luck’s magic couldn’t extend for a second week in a row, but T.Y. Hilton showed why many raved about him in the preseason, hauling in 6 passes for 124 yards. This is a tricky team to get. The Colts won a lot of games last year in the closing minutes. Has their good fortune run out?
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (19) — Every time I watch Matthew Stafford throw the ball I’m reminded of how I must’ve looked growing up playing pick-up football in the field behind our house in the Coast Guard housing complex. Just slinging it from all angles. And is anyone else concerned that Reggie Bush is already ailing in a few different places?
17.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (14) — Still getting the champions discount, this Ravens team is a funny one. Struggled to beat the Browns on the day they raised the banner, no great offensive go-to guy outside of Ray Rice, who’s banged up. A defense without an identity. Good thing John Harbaugh is a helluva coach.
16.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) (10) — Michael Vick had another outstanding offensive game (guy in my fantasy league has him AND Peyton Manning, as if that’s fair). As did DeSean Jackson. But that defense gave up a boatload of points, that’s what would concern me moving forward. Really excited for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs, ya know, that team coached by Andy Reid.
15.) San Diego Chargers (1-1) (23) — The Chargers are one of those teams who should be undefeated, but alas, they’ve looked much better than most expected to start. Philip Rivers seems to have fixed what’s been ailing him the last two seasons. Still without a run game, he’s really doing it all on his own. To beat an Eagles team on the road in the early east coast game was damn impressive.
14.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (7) — Dallas has never lost a game when DeMarco Murray rushes 20-or-more times, but yet he only had 12 carries in Week 2 after 21 in Week 1; a win. We’ll see if he gets the rock this Sunday. Nice of Dez Bryant have himself a game, and you can see how he can affect a game when he’s ballin’. Also another good game from that Cowboys defense.
13.) Tennessee Titans (1-1) (20) — It’s crazy to think about a team like Tennessee, which everyone was writing off heading into the season, is a play away from being 2-0. Chris Johnson has 50 carries through the first two games and appears to be his old self. Jake Locker isn’t playing competently, and this defense appears tough, despite giving up the lead to Houston.
12.) Miami Dolphins (2-0) (18) — Maybe I should’ve kept Mike Wallace in fantasy after all, as dude blew up to help the Dolphins to a surprise start and take out the Colts on the road. Now they head home and host the Falcons with a chance to lead the AFC East for the first time since they won the division back in 2008. Warren Sapp said Lauren Tannehill’s husband was going to break Dan Marino’s team passing record and he’s on his way.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) (17) — We kinda figured the Jaguars weren’t that good, so it was tough to judge just what we had with the Chiefs after Week 1, but after a Week 2 home win against Dallas, I’m a Chiefs believer. Alex Smith has been solid, the defense is flying around, and Jamaal Charles is running hard. I’m happy for Andy Reid and all the rib places in K.C.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) (6) — Matt Ryan is ballin’ out of control right now, but the big question is can his line keep the $100M man upright, especially now that Steven Jackson is out a couple weeks with a soft tissue injury. Roddy White’s health is a concern but if he can get healthy and Tony Gonzalez keeps playing his way into shape, there’s no stopping this offense.
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (4) — I still need to see more out of Andy Dalton. He missed some easy throws Monday night against Pittsburgh but that defense was strong and Gio Bernard looked like a mini-Ray Rice out there. That Bengals defense is stingy, too. Pacman is playing some solid corner. Oh, and I know they won and dropped a few places, but that an adjustment since I had them over-rated a bit last week.
8.) New England Patriots (2-0) (5) — You know what, if I was Tom Brady, and believe me, I’ve thought about what that would be like, I’d be yelling too at everyone on the sideline, in the stands, on Twitter, if my receivers dropped balls like his did. Julian Edelman is the Patriots No. 1 option. Think about that for a second. Go ahead. I’ll wait … if you’re a Patriots fan, I’d be worried. Unbeaten or not.
7.) Houston Texans (2-0) (11) — What was the stat I saw, the Texans are the first team in NFL history to win their first two games of a season on the last play of the game. Think about that, and the handful of teams who could have their records reversed if one or two things went differently. Matt Schaub looks good so far and DeAndre Hopkins looks like the real deal after this game-winning TD grab (possibly the lone bright spot on my fantasy squad?). And not sure if you saw J.J. Watt on “The League” the last two weeks, but pretty hilarious stuff. As always.
6.) New Orleans Saints (2-0) (12) — The Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last season and so that led Marshall Faulk to make a bold prediction that they would be Top 5 by the end of the year. Currently, after two games, they are 11th. Subsequently, they are undefeated. These two items are not unrelated.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (8) — You think Aaron Rodgers was sick of hearing about all these young quarterbacks taking over the league? Especially when one of them was coming to his house? How’s almost 400 yards in the first half taste? Granted, me, Rich and Law and a few of the other NFL Media folks could probably score 30 on the Redskins, but damn, Aaron Rodgers can sling it. Now, the Pack just needs to play some defense and this is once again a legit Super Bowl contender.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) (1) — It’s safe to say none of us saw that Sunday night stinkfest coming out of the 49ers. That was a beatdown to the Nth degree. Anquan Boldin was held to one catch after turning the clock way back in Game 1 and Colin Kaepernick looked nothing like the superstar he showed himself to be against the Packers. It’s also worth nothing that no one wins in Seattle, so I wouldn’t be too worried.
3.) Chicago Bears (2-0) (9) — Could this really be the new Jay Cutler? Not getting sacked, throwing game-winning TD passes and generally acting like the opposite of the football player we know him to be. We’ve seen this act before out of the Bears; fast start, looking like a playoff team, then Cutler gets hurt and Bears fall apart. I wanna see some consistency. A win against Pittsburgh would be a nice proving ground.
2.) Denver Broncos (2-0) (2) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. He’s pretty good.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (2-0) (3) — If Seattle gets homefield in the NFC, it’s going to the Super Bowl. There’s no bones about it. The Seahawks can’t lose there. When it’s that loud and Beast Mode is running like he’s on a Skittles high and First Name Russell, Last Name Wilson is throwing darts and the Legion of Boom is lowering the hammer. Shoot. No wonder Pete Carroll is always smiling.
LOS ANGELES — Whenever NFL Network airs old episodes of “Hard Knocks,” no matter the team, I always tune in. In addition to being fantastically produced by the NFL Films team, they are hilarious to watch with the benefit of hindsight. When the Jets cut little Danny Woodhead in 2010 you had no idea he would turn into this all-world, do-everything back for the Patriots. Nearly three years later, after New York has proven to be the buffoons of the league, the move is even more laughable. Watching the Dolphins last summer you never got the impression they would ever sniff the .500 mark or be a competent football team; you were too busy waiting patiently for any scene with Lauren Tannehill. In 2009, Chad Johnson looked like a lock for Cooperstown and his career faded quicker than the yellow enshrinee jacket. And on and on.
So, with less than 3 months until the 2013 season begins – the Hall of Fame Game between the Miami and Dallas is on Aug. 4 – here’s my wish list for teams for this upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (in no particular order).
Washington Redskins: They have the most dynamic young player in the league who just so happens to be coming off a horrific knee injury in Robert Griffin III, a squirrelly coach in Mike Shanahan, an owner who likes to meddle and flash his deep pockets, and a rabid, rabid fan base thirsty for a winner again. What’s not to like here?!
Seattle Seahawks: Football is back on the Pacific northwest and the Seahawks have a dynamic, rah-rah coach in Pete Carroll and some explosive players (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to go with their charismatic young quarterback, Russell Wilson. Throw in the big mouth of Richard Sherman and the rest of the Boom Squad and this would be a very, very fun season of Hard Knocks.
Atlanta Falcons: I was pulling for them to be the choice last season, as the Falcons were a team on the rise, a thought confirmed as they were a play away from the Super Bowl. This time around is no different. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest pass-catching tight end of all-time, is back for a final season. Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, Mike Smith looks like an extra on “The Sopranos,” Roddy White is among the chattiest in the league, Julio Jones as well; not to mention Brian Banks and his struggle to get back his football life.
Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Cardinals would be extremely entertaining over four weeks of Training Camp. Bruce Arians and his Kangol hats would bound for laughs, Larry Fitzgerald is among the worldly NFL players, Patrick Peterson, the Honey Badger, not to mention Carson Palmer and his old tired arm and perfect hair. Sounds good to me.
New England Patriots: Yes, this is a homer pick, but who wouldn’t want to see exactly how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady perform their magic; to go behind the curtain with a 3-time Super Bowl Champion as they gear up for another AFC-dominating campaign. I know I would, and if you’re honest with yourself, you are, too.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL James Bond and is now paid like a Sultan, same goes for Clay Matthews, who now has enough cashola to have a room full of FatHeads of himself. Throw in Mike McCarthy, the people of Green Bay, the young and exciting Randall Cobb, and you have the recipe for entertainment.
Philadelphia Eagles: This one makes a lot of sense. You got a rookie head coach with a pretty high profile in Chip Kelly and the hype surrounding his new offense, of course there’s Michael Vick and the “dynasty” comments he’s made in recent offseasons, add in the outspoken DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the fans who would be bound to call into local radio to complain about the show, and I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
Buffalo Bills: A bit of a sleeper here, but think about it: Stevie Johnson is the new Chad Johnson right down to the game to back it up, they have a rookie quarterback learning the NFL game in surprise-First-Round-pick E.J. Manuel, a rookie head coach with a larger than life personality and enthusiasm for life in Doug Marrone. I’m guessing C.J. Spiller will wear a bunch of outrageous outfits, Marcel Dareus will do something ridiculous and they’ll eat a lot of wings. I hope.
San Diego Chargers: Two words: Manti Te’o.
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 NFL Draft is in a couple hours and by now you’ve surely read 8,000 mock drafts telling which team should take which college standout where and what it should trade up to get him, who’s worth the risk and who’s getting passed up. You’ve read things like “heavy-legged waist bender” and “dancing bear” and dogs and cats and busts, and heard comparisons to Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell and Elway and Marino and everywhere in between. Well this is not like any of those mock drafts. This is way more fun and speculative. Based on NFL.com’s projections for each team’s biggest area of need, I broke down what each of the teams picking in the Top 16 should do if they were drafting celebrities, either based on their real lives or a character they once played long ago. Because what’s more hilarious and a waste of time than mixing sports and pop culture? Right. Nothing. Pretty sure Grantland’s whole existence is based on this premise.
Enjoy and don’t forget to tune into the 1st Round of the 2013 NFL Draft on NFL Network in a couple hours at 8pm ET and all throughout the weekend. And, as always, I’ll have my 1st Round Running Diary posted sometime before Friday night’s 2nd Round coverage kicks off.
1.) Kansas City Chiefs: Biggest Need – Offensive line. Celebrity Pick – Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family): This might be the easiest pick in the Draft. Not only is Stonestreet a gigantic Chiefs fan, but he’s also roughly the size of a starting left tackle. In fact, I don’t think anyone would notice if Kansas City took him instead. And I know ES has lost some weight recently, but who wouldn’t want to see him in a wing-off with Andy Reid? Who isn’t paying $9.95 to see that?
2.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Jerry O’Connell (“Jerry Maguire”): If you were going to be the No. 1 overall pick in a fake NFL Draft, that’s really all I need to slot you at the top of this mock draft. Now, O’Connell didn’t have the greatest arm motion in his brief football clips but hey, anything’s better than Blaine Gabbert, AMIRIGHT?!
3.) Oakland Raiders: Biggest Need – Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Rick Ross (rapper): You want to talk about a hole plugger, Ross is your guy. He’s Vince Wilfork but with vocal skills. And you don’t have to worry about him looking the part; Ross would immediately be in the Top 5 All-Tattoo Team and his rap sheet puts him on par with Rolando McClain. Sounds like a Raider to me.
4.) Philadelphia Eagles: Biggest Need – Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Abraham Benrubi (“ER”): Every year there are picks that make you shake your head, and this is one of those, but trust me, Benrubi can protect Chip Kelly’s fine jewels. First off, this guy was a nurse, so he knows how to take care of people. Secondly, I once saw him at California Chicken Cafe on Melrose, and let’s just say he can pack away a combo wrap or 5. Conditioning might be an issue in this new high-tempo offense, but a source tells me he’s ready to adjust.
5.) Detroit Lions: Biggest Need – Defensive End. Celebrity Pick – Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”): Aggressive? Check (the guy’s a werewolf). Looks the part? Check (yeah, 6-5, 260 is significantly bigger than Dwight Freeney).
6.) Cleveland Browns: Biggest Need – Defensive Back. Celebrity Pick – Anthony Mackie (“We Are Marshall”): Mackie brought the wood and looked legit doing it as a Marshall safety, and certainly he’s jacked up like LaRon Landry in his latest flick “Pain and Gain.”
7.) Arizona Cardinals: Biggest Need — Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Billy Gardell (“Mike & Molly”): Not only is Gardell a monster, he’s a security guard, so he knows what’s it’s like to protect the good. Not that Carson Palmer would be considered “the goods” anymore, but you get my point.
8.) Buffalo Bills: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Keanu Reeves (“Point Break”): “Don’t you know who this is? It’s Johnny Utah.” ‘Nuff said.
9.) New York Jets: Biggest Need – Quarterback. Celebrity Pick – Jamie Foxx (“Any Given Sunday”): If there’s anyone who could come in and tame the New York media and become the new QB darling in the Big Apple it’s Willie Beamen. Not only was he ahead of his time with the spread offense, he’s not afraid to smack talk with his own players. Something Mark Sanchez definitely isn’t doing.
10.) Tennessee Titans: Biggest Need – Offensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Reuben Studdard (Americon Idol): I don’t know what big Rube is up to these days, but I’m guessing him right now, in 2013, would be better than anyone the Titans could draft here. He could probably play the whole left side of the line if my waistline trajectory projection is accurate. Chris Johnson could ride that sandwich to 2,000 yards.
11.) San Diego Chargers: Biggest Need – Offensive Lineman. Celebrity Pick – James Gandolfini (The Sopranos): There’s not a more offensive person in the history of the world than James Gandolfini. OK, that may be stretching it, but Tony Soprano has to be up there among TV characters. He didn’t even want Meadow causally dating that mixed dude in Season 2, and he was always so eloquent with his speech. This is someone you want protecting you.
12.) Miami Dolphins: Biggest Need – Tackle. Celebrity Pick – John Goodman (“Roseanne”): Explosive. Powerful. Volatile. That pretty much sums up Goodman in all his roles and that’s definitely the kind of attitude you want on the offensive line where he’ll be protecting 2nd-year Mr. Lauren Tannehill.
13.) New York Jets: Biggest Need – Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick — Jason Segal (“How I Met Your Mother”): Segal once told me and Hines Ward on the Red Carpet of the 2012 Academy Awards that if were ever to portray a football player in a movie, he’d be a tight end. So naturally, this is fitting for the Jets who need anyone to do anything productive on the field.
14.) Carolina Panthers: Biggest Need – Defensive Line. Celebrity Pick – Dwayne Johnson (Everything): Seriously, do you smell what The Rock is cookin’?
15.) New Orleans Saints: Biggest Need – Linebacker. Celebrity Pick – Channing Tatum (“Magic Mike”): There’s literally nothing this guy can’t do, so why not start at middle linebacker for the Saints? He’s ripped. A physical specimen and you know if he ever picked one off and returned it to the house he’d have a fantastic end zone dance.
16.) St. Louis Rams: Biggest Need – Wide Receiver. Celebrity Pick – Bill Bellamy (“Any Given Sunday”): This seems like an obvious choice. Bellamy told us he’s the greatest receiver of all-time. I have no reason to NOT believe him. All wide receivers are very level-headed individuals and never prone to self-aggrandizing and egomania.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
LOS ANGELES — Riding the tidal wave of last year’s rousing success, I decided to bring back my NFL Burning Questions column, only this time with a twist. Instead of doing one question for each number of Super Bowls, I’m going to borrow an idea I’ve seen elsewhere in the sports blogosphere and do an inquiry for all 32 teams and put them in a pre-Week 1 “You’re The Man” power ranking. (I mean, I have to be somewhat original, right?) Perhaps each week I’ll revisit the previous week’s question to see if an answer as been reached and re-rank accordingly. Hmm… (hamster gets off couch and peers at the wheel…)
So without any more adieu, let’s boast about other people’s football manhood!!
32.) Cleveland Browns — I have Greg Little on my main fantasy team this year, but will there be enough of a run game to allow Brandon Weeden time to throw him the ball and focus on something else other than all the 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs the Browns will eventually be in all season?
31.) Miami Dolphins — The only way Miami’s going to be able to score is if Ryan Tannehill’s wife lines up at WR and distracts the defense, thus allowing Reggie Bush to run rampant. So the question is, can Mrs. Tannehill play WR? I mean, no one else can on that team.
30.) Arizona Cardinals — At this rate, I’m next up in the QB Carousel down in Arizona. Seriously, does Kurt Warner really not want to play anymore? I’ve seen him in the hallways at NFL Network and I’m willing to bet he can still sling it better than Skelton/Kolb.
29.) Minnesota Vikings — If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota. However, with the aerial assassins in that division – Packers, Lions, Bears – can the Vikings defense be able to stop anyone?
28.) Jacksonville Jaguars – PHEW! Maurice Jones-Drew is back. Now, what week do I start him in fantasy? Can Justin Blackmon keep himself out of trouble long enough to become the next Anquan Boldin?
27.) St. Louis Rams – Can Jeff Fisher’s mustache play WR? Who is Sam Bradford supposed to throw it to? I feel for Steven Jackson because I’m guessing he’s going to take another pounding this season.
26.) New York Jets – If Tim Tebow comes in the game and scores a touchdown, would you take him out? What if the defense scores; can you send them out on offense? That’s how bad their offense is.
25.) Indianapolis Colts – I’m guessing this is the lowest the Colts will be all season. Just a hunch and my faith in Luck’s talent. He’s that good. Put it this way: would you rather have the Jets defense and their mess at QB or Andrew Luck? Yup, me too.
24.) Tennessee Titans – Jake Locker officially has the reigns of the Titans offense, having won them from my brother Matt Hasselbeck this preseason, but can Chris Johnson regain his 2010 form?
23.) Seattle Seahawks – I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about Russell Wilson, but remember: he dominated the PRE-season. Different beast when the games count for real. Can he legitimately make the Seahawks a challenger to the 49ers in the NFC West?
22.) Oakland Raiders – The good news for Rolando McClain is the Black Hole is probably the only place were shooting off your guns in public is considered tame behavior. I’m guessing the Raiders offense is going to be fine; can the defense carry its weight with Peyton, the explosive Chiefs and potentially deadly Chargers in the way?
21.) Dallas Cowboys – Will Dez Bryant’s “bodyguards” be with him on the sideline to let him know when to go out in the huddle? More importantly, and for Tony Romo’s sake, will they actually suit up and play offensive line?
20.) Washington Redskins – I’m among those who think Robert Griffin III has the potential to have a Cam Newton-Lite type of season but will Mike Shanahan’s penchant for using 18 running backs during the season screw with Robert’s mojo?
19.) San Diego Chargers – The only question is will the Chargers start out hot and then fizzle to finish 8-8 or fizzle and get hot down the stretch to finish 8-8? Either way, they’ll be watching the playoffs from their over-priced recliners.
18.) Buffalo Bills – The offense started hot in 2011 as the Bills were the league’s darling. Now the defense is better with the addition of Mario Williams. Who will lead them this season?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs – Now that the Chiefs have a coach they like and a young defense said likable coach, who has a few Super Bowl rings, is creating schemes for, is Matt Cassel the man everyone in Arrowhead thinks he can be?
16.) Philadelphia Eagles – Dream Team. Dynasty. Is there another D-word an overrated player on the Eagles can throw out describing their underachieving ball club?
15.) Carolina Panthers – I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Cam Newton is not liked but a certain Southern California native wide receiver who happens to be his teammate. That said, can the offense stay as surprisingly explosive in Year 2?
14.) Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning is one of my favorite players. I have an autographed 8×10 he sent me when he was in college after I wrote him a letter as a high school junior. I think he should have retired after last year. I don’t think he’ll make it through this year unscathed. I hope I’m wrong. If he’s healthy, how will he make those around him better?
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This is not the same Bucs team that lost 10 straight last year. I think. Can Greg Schiano inject some new life into the organization and can Josh Freeman bounce back from his disaster 2011 campaign to lead this young, potentially dangerous team?
12.) Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger said during a sideline, preseason interview that he called his own plays. Hmm. So why was Todd Haley brought in again? Will Mike Wallace feel the effects of his hold out? And who’s the running back again? Get the feeling the trend of the last few years of this not being my daddy’s smashmouth Steelers will continue.
11.) Detroit Lions – You wanna talk about a team that throws it all over the school yard; your Detroit Lions, everybody! But can their secondary stop anyone? We know Ndamukong Suh has the front seven on lockdown, but can the back four prevent Matthew Stafford of having to engineer 4th Quarter comebacks all season?
10.) Chicago Bears – The Cutler & Marshall band is back together at Soldier Field this season, but will they make the same sweet Denver music?
9.) Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are running out of excuses as to why they haven’t won a playoff game. Is Matty really Ice or is he the Cooler?
8.) Cincinnati Bengals – No one saw the 2011 Bengals coming, not even themselves. Can they equal last year’s surprising season or will a sophomore slump bite Andy Dalton and A.J. Green?
7.) New Orleans Saints – We’re going to find out in a hurry just how important a head coach is to a professional football team. Hell, we’re going to find out in a hurry just how important an INTERIM head coach is to a football team. Can Drew Brees be both AND the greatest passer this side of a 10-year-old Chris Brockman with a Nerf ball?
6.) Houston Texans – Arian Foster likes to bow after scoring touchdowns. I like to watch him bow after scoring touchdowns because that means 6+ points for my fantasy team. With Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy, and Ben Tate the best backup RB in the game, how often does Gary Kubiak like watching Foster bow after scoring TDs?
5.) San Francisco 49ers – Can Alex Smith come out and make everyone forget his coach tried to woo Peyton Manning and then lied about it by showing how he nearly got the 9ers to the Super Bowl last year?
4.) Baltimore Ravens – Can the Ravens new kicker make a 32-yard field goal?
3.) Green Bay Packers – Quick Aaron Rodgers story: I was at the same ESPY’s after-after party earlier this summer as the 2011 NFL MVP, and he walked around like James freakin’ Bond. It was uncanny the control of the room (or rooftop in this case) he had. I ended up exiting the party with him, the Hasselbecks (all 3), Sage Steele, among others, and Rodgers made fun of us for all being bald. I said something inconsequential back and the night ended. Just thought I’d share. Oh, and is Cedric Benson really the answer for the Pack’s running woes?
2.) New England Patriots – I think we all know what to expect from the Patriots offense, but what about the defense? They can’t get much much worse than 31st in total defense, as they were in 2011. Oh, I thought of an offensive question: can Tom Brady get better looking this year? Like physically. He’s so dreamy. Seriously, look at those eyes.
1.) New York Giants – You all remember the Giants, don’t you? They’re the OTHER team that plays in New York (or New Jersey, but who cares about geography). You may know them as the ones who actually win in that town. You probably haven’t heard much from them since the Jets have dominated the back pages. Oh, right, a question … hmm … Will Tom Coughlin smile at all this season?